A little over a year after XXXTentacion (born Jahseh Onfroy) was shot and killed outside a Florida motorcycle dealership, his second posthumous album, Bad Vibes Forever, will be released this fall. X’s manager and Sounds Music Group CEO Solomon Sobande describes it as “the love child between 17 and ?,” the two albums X released during his lifetime. Along with Nima Etminan, vp at EMPIRE (which releases X’s music), he spoke about assembling Bad Vibes and the artist’s complex legacy.
How did you approach putting the album together?
Sobande: A lot of records, like “School Shooter” featuring Lil Wayne or “Hearteater,” Jahseh saved for this point in his career when he was more established, so they would be better received. A lot of things he had worked on, almost complete ideas, weren’t finished -- maybe [they] only had one verse and a hook or only a beat. To fill out those songs, a who’s who of the music industry came out to help us.
Who did that include?
Sobande: The executive producer is Cleopatra Bernard, Jahseh’s mother, who pieced everything together with the creatives who worked with Jahseh. John Cunningham, Jah’s right-hand man, produced the majority of the album. There’s outside production from DJ Carnage and JonFX. For “Royalty,” featuring Ky-Mani Marley, Stefflon Don and Vybz Kartel, Jah did the song with Ky-Mani, and after he passed, his mom set it up so I could go to Jamaica, visit Vybz in jail and get his verse.
Are there other features?
Sobande: There’s a healthy amount. Tory Lanez and Mavado; there’s a country song featuring Lil Nas X. One of the most surprising is Blink-182 -- one of Jah’s favorite bands.
Did his mother have final approval?
Etminan: His mother’s word remains the most important thing, along with the people who worked most closely with him. I was a young hip-hop fan when 2Pac passed away. I remember 2Pac albums coming out and being upset about people who had no relation to him being put on records. So now that I’m working on a project for someone who was taken away from us too early, I want to make sure I satisfy the kids in the position I was in.
The domestic violence charges against X heavily inform his legacy. How does that influence you?
Sobande: I knew him personally, and he wasn’t the person those charges said he was. He had his share of problems, mental health issues. But he was making every effort to change. Part of the responsibility for me and his team is to expose that person who was trying to be better.